Down and Out in the New Economy: How People Find (or Don’t Find) Work Today

University of Chicago Press
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Finding a job used to be simple. You’d show up at an office and ask for an application. A friend would mention a job in their department. Or you’d see an ad in a newspaper and send in your cover letter. Maybe you’d call the company a week later to check in, but the basic approach was easy. And once you got a job, you would stay—often for decades.

Now . . . well, it’s complicated. If you want to have a shot at a good job, you need to have a robust profile on LinkdIn. And an enticing personal brand. Or something like that—contemporary how-to books tend to offer contradictory advice. But they agree on one thing: in today’s economy, you can’t just be an employee looking to get hired—you have to market yourself as a business, one that can help another business achieve its goals.

That’s a radical transformation in how we think about work and employment, says Ilana Gershon. And with Down and Out in the New Economy, she digs deep into that change and what it means, not just for job seekers, but for businesses and our very culture. In telling her story, Gershon covers all parts of the employment spectrum: she interviews hiring managers about how they assess candidates; attends personal branding seminars; talks with managers at companies around the United States to suss out regional differences—like how Silicon Valley firms look askance at the lengthier employment tenures of applicants from the Midwest. And she finds that not everything has changed: though the technological trappings may be glitzier, in a lot of cases, who you know remains more important than what you know.

Throughout, Gershon keeps her eye on bigger questions, interested not in what lessons job-seekers can take—though there are plenty of those here—but on what it means to consider yourself a business. What does that blurring of personal and vocational lives do to our sense of our selves, the economy, our communities? Though it’s often dressed up in the language of liberation, is this approach actually disempowering workers at the expense of corporations?

Rich in the voices of people deeply involved with all parts of the employment process, Down and Out in the New Economy offers a snapshot of the quest for work today—and a pointed analysis of its larger meaning.

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About the author

Ilana Gershon is associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University and the author of TheBreakup 2.0: Disconnecting Over New Media.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Apr 12, 2017
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780226452289
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Careers / Job Hunting
Business & Economics / General
Business & Economics / Human Resources & Personnel Management
Social Science / Anthropology / Cultural & Social
Social Science / Sociology / General
Technology & Engineering / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Ever wondered what it would be like to be a street magician in Paris? A fish farmer in Norway? A costume designer in Bollywood? This playful and accessible look at different types of work around the world delivers a wealth of information and advice about a wide array of jobs and professions. The value of this book is twofold: For young people or middle-aged people who are undecided about their career paths and feel constrained in their choices, A World of Work offers an expansive vision. For ethnographers, this book offers an excellent example of using the practical details of everyday life to shed light on larger structural issues.Each chapter in this collection of ethnographic fiction could be considered a job manual. Yet not any typical job manual—to do justice to the ways details about jobs are conveyed in culturally specific ways, the authors adopt a range of voices and perspectives. One chapter is written as though it was a letter from an older sister counseling her brother on how to be a doctor in Malawi. Another is framed as a eulogy for a well-loved village magistrate in Papua New Guinea who may have been killed by sorcery.Beneath the novelty of the examples are some serious messages that Ilana Gershon highlights in her introduction. These ethnographies reveal the connection between work and culture, the impact of societal values on the conditions of employment. Readers will be surprised at how much they can learn about an entire culture by being given the chance to understand just one occupation.Contributors: Lovleen Bains, Mumbai; Chiwoza Bandawe, University of Malawi; Joshua A. Bell, Smithsonian Institution; Michelle Bigenho, Colgate University; Warren Chamberlain, Vita Needle Company, Massachusetts; Melissa Demian, Australian National University; Ilana Gershon, Indiana University; Kathryn Graber, Indiana University; Graham M. Jones, MIT; Amanda Kemble, University of Michigan; Briel Kobak, University of Chicago; Corinna Kruse, Linköping University, Sweden; Joel Kuipers, The George Washington University; Carrie Lane, California State University, Fullerton; Jean Lave, University of California, Berkeley; John Law, Open University; Heather Levi, Temple University; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, University of Oslo; Caitrin Lynch, Olin College; Loïc Marquet, Paris; Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Indiana University; Chris Swift, Leeds Teaching Hospitals; Claire Wendland, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Clare Wilkinson-Weber, Washington State University Vancouver; Helena Wulff, Stockholm University
#1 New York Times Bestseller 

An inspiring and thought-provoking graduation gift: At last, a book that shows you how to build—design—a life you can thrive in, at any age or stage 

Designers create worlds and solve problems using design thinking. Look around your office or home—at the tablet or smartphone you may be holding or the chair you are sitting in. Everything in our lives was designed by someone. And every design starts with a problem that a designer or team of designers seeks to solve.

In this book, Bill Burnett and Dave Evans show us how design thinking can help us create a life that is both meaningful and fulfilling, regardless of who or where we are, what we do or have done for a living, or how young or old we are. The same design thinking responsible for amazing technology, products, and spaces can be used to design and build your career and your life, a life of fulfillment and joy, constantly creative and productive, one that always holds the possibility of surprise.


"Designing Your Life walks readers through the process of building a satisfying, meaningful life by approaching the challenge the way a designer would. Experimentation. Wayfinding. Prototyping. Constant iteration. You should read the book. Everyone else will." 
—Daniel Pink, bestselling author of Drive
 
“This [is] the career book of the next decade and . . . the go-to book that is read as a rite of passage whenever someone is ready to create a life they love.”
—David Kelley, Founder of IDEO

“An empowering book based on their popular class of the same name at Stanford University . . . Perhaps the book’s most important lesson is that the only failure is settling for a life that makes one unhappy. With useful fact-finding exercises, an empathetic tone, and sensible advice, this book will easily earn a place among career-finding classics.”
—Publishers Weekly
In an unorthodox approach, Georgetown University professor Cal Newport debunks the long-held belief that "follow your passion" is good advice, and sets out on a quest to discover the reality of how people end up loving their careers.

Not only are pre-existing passions rare and have little to do with how most people end up loving their work, but a focus on passion over skill can be dangerous, leading to anxiety and chronic job hopping. Spending time with organic farmers, venture capitalists, screenwriters, freelance computer programmers, and others who admitted to deriving great satisfaction from their work, Newport uncovers the strategies they used and the pitfalls they avoided in developing their compelling careers.

Cal reveals that matching your job to a pre-existing passion does not matter. Passion comes after you put in the hard work to become excellent at something valuable, not before. In other words, what you do for a living is much less important than how you do it.

With a title taken from the comedian Steve Martin, who once said his advice for aspiring entertainers was to "be so good they can't ignore you," Cal Newport's clearly written manifesto is mandatory reading for anyone fretting about what to do with their life, or frustrated by their current job situation and eager to find a fresh new way to take control of their livelihood. He provides an evidence-based blueprint for creating work you love, and will change the way you think about careers, happiness, and the crafting of a remarkable life.

A few generations ago, college students showed their romantic commitments by exchanging special objects: rings, pins, varsity letter jackets. Pins and rings were handy, telling everyone in local communities that you were spoken for, and when you broke up, the absence of a ring let everyone know you were available again. Is being Facebook official really more complicated, or are status updates just a new version of these old tokens?

Many people are now fascinated by how new media has affected the intricacies of relationships and their dissolution. People often talk about Facebook and Twitter as platforms that have led to a seismic shift in transparency and (over)sharing. What are the new rules for breaking up? These rules are argued over and mocked in venues from the New York Times to lamebook.com, but well-thought-out and informed considerations of the topic are rare.

Ilana Gershon was intrigued by the degree to which her students used new media to communicate important romantic information-such as "it's over." She decided to get to the bottom of the matter by interviewing seventy-two people about how they use Skype, texting, voice mail, instant messaging, Facebook, and cream stationery to end relationships. She opens up the world of romance as it is conducted in a digital milieu, offering insights into the ways in which different media influence behavior, beliefs, and social mores.

Above all, this full-fledged ethnography of Facebook and other new tools is about technology and communication, but it also tells the reader a great deal about what college students expect from each other when breaking up-and from their friends who are the spectators or witnesses to the ebb and flow of their relationships. The Breakup 2.0 is accessible and riveting.

Government bureaucracies across the globe have become increasingly attuned in recent years to cultural diversity within their populations. Using culture as a category to process people and dispense services, however, can create its own problems and unintended consequences. In No Family Is an Island, a comparative ethnography of Samoan migrants living in the United States and New Zealand, Ilana Gershon investigates how and when the categories "cultural" and "acultural" become relevant for Samoans as they encounter cultural differences in churches, ritual exchanges, welfare offices, and community-based organizations.

In both New Zealand and the United States, Samoan migrants are minor minorities in an ethnic constellation dominated by other minority groups. As a result, they often find themselves in contexts where the challenge is not to establish the terms of the debate but to rewrite them. To navigate complicated and often unyielding bureaucracies, they must become skilled in what Gershon calls "reflexive engagement" with the multiple social orders they inhabit. Those who are successful are able to parlay their own cultural expertise (their "Samoanness") into an ability to subtly alter the institutions with which they interact in their everyday lives. Just as the "cultural" is sometimes constrained by the forces exerted by acultural institutions, so too can migrant culture reshape the bureaucracies of their new countries. Theoretically sophisticated yet highly readable, No Family Is an Island contributes significantly to our understanding of the modern immigrant experience of making homes abroad.

Ever wondered what it would be like to be a street magician in Paris? A fish farmer in Norway? A costume designer in Bollywood? This playful and accessible look at different types of work around the world delivers a wealth of information and advice about a wide array of jobs and professions. The value of this book is twofold: For young people or middle-aged people who are undecided about their career paths and feel constrained in their choices, A World of Work offers an expansive vision. For ethnographers, this book offers an excellent example of using the practical details of everyday life to shed light on larger structural issues.Each chapter in this collection of ethnographic fiction could be considered a job manual. Yet not any typical job manual—to do justice to the ways details about jobs are conveyed in culturally specific ways, the authors adopt a range of voices and perspectives. One chapter is written as though it was a letter from an older sister counseling her brother on how to be a doctor in Malawi. Another is framed as a eulogy for a well-loved village magistrate in Papua New Guinea who may have been killed by sorcery.Beneath the novelty of the examples are some serious messages that Ilana Gershon highlights in her introduction. These ethnographies reveal the connection between work and culture, the impact of societal values on the conditions of employment. Readers will be surprised at how much they can learn about an entire culture by being given the chance to understand just one occupation.Contributors: Lovleen Bains, Mumbai; Chiwoza Bandawe, University of Malawi; Joshua A. Bell, Smithsonian Institution; Michelle Bigenho, Colgate University; Warren Chamberlain, Vita Needle Company, Massachusetts; Melissa Demian, Australian National University; Ilana Gershon, Indiana University; Kathryn Graber, Indiana University; Graham M. Jones, MIT; Amanda Kemble, University of Michigan; Briel Kobak, University of Chicago; Corinna Kruse, Linköping University, Sweden; Joel Kuipers, The George Washington University; Carrie Lane, California State University, Fullerton; Jean Lave, University of California, Berkeley; John Law, Open University; Heather Levi, Temple University; Marianne Elisabeth Lien, University of Oslo; Caitrin Lynch, Olin College; Loïc Marquet, Paris; Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Indiana University; Chris Swift, Leeds Teaching Hospitals; Claire Wendland, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Clare Wilkinson-Weber, Washington State University Vancouver; Helena Wulff, Stockholm University
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